A Closer Look into the Inner Workings of a Group

Aug 3, 2018 in Business

It is known that individuals in organizations rarely work in isolation from the others

This can occur only in those exceptional cases where the employee performs strictly individual task, which is controlled only by the top management of the organization when he autonomously contacts with the external environment and makes decisions mainly by himself.

However, most of the situations that arise in the course of organizational activities, characterize namely the group relationship. Groups in organizations are the basis of synergy, and, as a rule, the members of the organization simply cannot conceive of their activities outside the social group.

A distinctive feature of any organization’s work is that the job is always done in groups or teams. The peculiarities of the work done by this organization does not really matter.

Recruitment of staff is very important for non-profit organizations (NPO), as the errors in the formation of the team can have unintended consequences, manifest in the tensions within the organization, and can lead to failure in the implementation of the project. So, a head of a NPO, who is often also a personnel manager, have to treat the task of attracting of human resources carefully and responsibly, taking into consideration the talent of the possible workers. The author, working in nonprofit community resource center on the position of regional coordinator at the regional office, has faced the challenge of necessity to improve the coherence of the group members every day, the efficiency of conflict resolution, effective training and development of staff in order to achieve synergies both in separate groups and in the resource center as a whole.

Managers can play a significant role in helping employees in terms of self-improvement

Their enthusiasm and the desire to think about the needs of people, their discipline in maintaining the regular level of control, the ability to give a job that provides opportunities for the development and the support of personnel in training – all these are important components.

However, the level of one’s training depends largely on the motivation and desire to learn. The relations between the members of the staff  - are a very important part of staff’s training and organizational effectiveness.

Well organized work with the staff allows to turn a group of people into a team. Everyone knows that working in NPOs - is, above all, work in a team. In contrast to business, the social sector does not follow a clear division of responsibilities. In each of NPOs, especially the small ones, employees often know the work of their colleagues and are ready to replace them if necessary. The work of a non-profit organization is dedicated to the overall objectives of the organization, and does not comprise of the performance of official duties. A coordinated team – is an essential condition of the success of the NPO. Therefore, in addition to building relationships with the boss, and sometimes with the committees, managers should build a relationship with the people working on them. The task of the manager is to create a team of people who are committed to achieving the stated goals, and to guide it. Ultimately, the success of the manager depends on the success of the team.

Many theorists believe that the groups develop in accordance with a number of definite phases

The idea was developed by Charles Gandhi. Like all the people and organizations, groups have enough specific growth cycle. It is divided into the following steps:

  1. Formation. Group is a set of people. At this stage, we are talking about the formation of group goals, defining its name, structure, leadership, and lifetime. At this level, everyone tends to define their own terms of being a part of a group and create a personal impression of it.
  2. Storm. Many groups pass through the stage of the conflict, when the time to change the preliminary and often inaccurate agreements on objectives, leadership and roles, standards of work and behavior, comes. At this level, multiple personality factors are revealed; there is some personal animosity. If the group successfully passes through the storm period, it results in a new and more realistic goals, policies and procedures. This period is especially important to check the rules of trust in the group.
  3. Rationing. At this level the group should adopt the rules and the principles of how and when to work, how to make decisions. This is the time when the type of behavior, the level of work, the level of openness, trust and mutual understanding should be set. At this stage, it is possible to conduct many experiments to test the “temperature” of the group and measure the level of interest of its members.
  4. Execution. Only when the three previous levels have been successfully passed, the group reaches final maturity and becomes fully productive (Handy, 1993).

Some theorists suggest two more stages of the development: “reforms” – the period of  changes in the group composition and “mourning” – the essential process for the proper end of the existence of the group.

Lundy and Cowling (1996) emphasize the following characteristics of effective team groups: persistence in achieving goals; ingenuity in overcoming obstacles, a qualitative approach to all aspects of team work, inspired vision, focus on action, interest in the success of the organization as a whole and the ability to distinguish the important from the urgent, willingness to take risks and be innovative and creative, and always look for ways to improve. This is, no doubt, reflects the intentions of many team leaders. However, the experience of the author shows that there are two peculiar obstacles on the way to a harmonious teamwork that must be overcome by organizations focused on values,. First, the fact that the staff of such an organization are often intelligent, charismatic and self-sufficient, but sometimes stubborn when it comes to the teamwork.

Second, managers must understand that their role is different from that of the other members. Democratic values of some organizations and a focus on the service users can influence the teamwork. Sometimes managers begin with the assumption that their primary duty – is to represent the views of the staff or the service users. They put the loyalty to the staff or the service users above their senior team member role while it is rational to find a compromise concerning the interests of the different members of the organization. They feel a responsibility to the people they represent but not to the members of the senior team. It is difficult for them to take collective responsibility for the decision of the management and to support these decisions when they should report to their own team.

In every organization there is a complex web of formal and informal groups.

In our organization, the division of formal groups is made by services: education, housing services, accidents, services benefits.

Such a division is useful because it focuses on professional skills to deliver the service.

If necessary, special teams are temporary created – it is an important way to join the necessary skills to solve specific problems. Such groups have a goal to achieve, the agreed resources, the time schedule and the leader - the task group is an effective interagency liaison. It also has a tendency to self-development. Groups often recommend to conduct the further research, or to continue monitoring the results. Often, a strict approach is necessary in order to check why no one dared to say, “We did our job, it was good. Now there are other important things to do”.

In addition to the formal organizational structure, there is a system of informal interpersonal relationships. There are relations of friendship, hostility, indifference within the organization. Some of the staff has the authority, and someone is blamed for all the troubles. This system of interpersonal relationships can both facilitate the work of the organization or create the obstacles; it depends on the relationships that are developed between the formal and the informal leader.

Of all the elements of the human potential and the potential of the group the creativity  is the one that is most difficult to determine. Specificity of human intelligence is so great that to determine the level of intelligence (there is still no consensus on the content of the concept of “intelligence” and its measurement) and its features with a high degree of reliability is not possible. The main way to use this component of a potential is to create conditions for a free and productive intellectual activity, a creative atmosphere. Efforts in this direction, as a rule, are not in vain, as each person “produces” at least one useful idea during the life, and others should only be able to accept it.

The awareness of the team members about what is happening within the group and the organization, largely determines the ethics of their relationship, as well as the conditions for creativity and initiative. Let us come to the problem of organizing collective decisions.

Decision-making process is related to the use of different strategies: reactive strategy, proactive strategy, an integrated strategy.

Reactive strategy involves passive expectation of changes in the external and internal environment of the organization and the response to these changes as a fait accompli. This strategy saves costs, but it suffers on ”short-sightedness” and passivity, which is fraught with a significant loss in the competition.

Active internal strategy involves actively preparing for future events, anticipating changes in the internal environment of the company (the change in priorities, reallocation of resources, structural reorganization, etc.).

Active external strategy involves the use of a variety of opportunities to influence the external environment of the organization by advertising, contacts with the public, authorities, other firms and so on.

Strategy to integrate internal and external processes, involves the implementation of an active internal and external policies based on the work of the Strategic Planning groups, analyzing trends in changes in the external and internal environment of the organization, generating the awareness of possible scenarios and proposals to achieve the best results in a given scenario.

It should be noted that a particular type of decision made by the leader defines his style of leadership.

The experience of the author in this organization allows to define the following types of group decision-making (the author's conclusions are confirmed by the results of the research and observations, carried out by the scientists and experts in the field of HR):

  1. unobtrusive solution - a solution that results from the chaotic debate by failing to discuss the issue further;
  2. an authoritative decision - the decision is made by one person, while the group carries the responsibility for the decision;
  3. the decision made by a minority - a decision made by a small group of people who came to a consensus, and the majority accept this decision;
  4. compromise - the decision made as a result of an agreement on mutual concessions, which do not fully satisfy either one of the parties;
  5. the decision made by the majority - the decision taken by a vote;
  6. an unanimous decision - a decision agreed to by all parties. It does not occur in a problem situation, rather during the formal adoption of the decision;
  7. coordinated decision - a decision made on the basis of preliminary work of the team.

In our organization, the following group decision-making methods are used: 1) open communication, and 2) a group discussion - group discuss any issues that is important to the participants.

There are also negative effects of a group decision-making:

  1. The effect of “social facilitation” - the difficulty in performing complex operations in the presence of the observers;
  2. the effects of “social laziness” and “shared responsibility” – the loss of efficiency in group decision-making with the weakening of the connection between one’s own efforts and the results and the “erosion” of responsibility;
  3. the effect of “conformity” - the impact of people around on the perception of the individual;
  4. the effect of “group think” or the effect of “group spirit” - making bad decisions based on a sense of superiority and invincibility of the group. It can be observed in a well-knit group, as a result of its isolation from an alternative source of information; the absence of information on how good was the previous decision; a sense of security and a high level of uncertainty of the approval of the individual opinions of the members of the group.

Obviously, the overall efficiency of the group is the degree to which the group realizes its goals and how close a group is to achieving them. It is difficult to measure overall effectiveness in a real organization, many managers have difficulty in assessing the performance, because the methods of this assessment are based on the measurement of such characteristics that cannot be described quantitatively. However, there are several approaches to performance measurement focused on what kind of performance would benefit managers. A number of traditional approaches, which were defined by Daft (Daft, 2009), aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the organization, but it can be applied to the determination of the effectiveness of individual groups. These approaches include a targeted approach, resource-based approach, and internal processes approach. The targeted approach is tied to the output; it is an estimate of how the group achieves its goals in terms of the desired state of the output. In the approach, based on the resources, the efficiency is determined by observation of the resources necessary for successful activity. In the approach of the internal processes the internal activity of the group is considered, and the efficiency is evaluated based on the indicators of “internal health and profitability”. A new approach of the stakeholders (stakeholder approach) is based on the assumption that for each group there are groups of individuals, having their own interest in the results of its operations. In the stakeholders approach an indicator of efficiency of the work of the group is the satisfaction of these stakeholders.

We use a comprehensive indicator of internal efficiency of the organization, based on the joint use of the targeted approach, the resource-based approach, and the internal processes approach. We also use an indicator of an external effectiveness, based on the approach of the stakeholders.

In modern society, with its level of requirements leaders should work using an integrated strategy. The times of execution of functional responsibilities are in the past. Managers should have a clear idea of how their work is a holistic strategy of the organization. They should anticipate changes in the external environment and respond to them.

It is generally accepted that the more cohesive the group is, the better it works. However, this pattern is not always universal. Relationship between group cohesion and performance of its members will be determined as to how the standards of conduct adopted by the group are aimed at achieving the highest results of its work.

An important factor determining the specifics of the group and the organization of the group process, is the specificity of the tasks that have to be decided by the group. Here, the characteristics such as interconnection and complexity of these problems occupy a special place. For example, in dealing with complex non-standard tasks the greatest gain will be achieved as a result of the discussion of different approaches to solving the problem and the use of effective methods of group decision making. If we need a solution of simple routine tasks, the need to discuss alternative solutions disappears, and, as a rule, the focus should be made on the standardization and formalization of the process of work. In addition, if the execution of the tasks assigned to the group requires close relationship and interdependence of members of the group process, then well adjusted exchange of information and results of work will be a necessary condition for the success of the task.

In small groups people interact with each other differently than with outsiders. As a result of this communication, a specific communication is established and a specific culture of a group is formed. The most important function of communication in a small group is not only in changing the attitudes or behavior of a group members under the influence of external spurs, but the achievement of a certain degree of consensus.

Group cohesion in terms of the communication processes in a small group was also investigated by L. Festinger (Festinger, 1951). Cohesion was analyzed by him on the basis of the data on the frequency and strength of communication links that are found in the group. The central concept, through which the analysis was carried out, was the notion of cognitive dissonance – the awareness of individual of a contrast of his opinion from opinion of another person or a group.

The most effective way to resolve the dissonance between the views of the individual and the group is to take a set of cognitive elements meeting points of view of the group.

There are three methods of interpersonal conflict resolution: Avoiding conflict, Cooperative behavior, Competitive behavior.

In our organization, the method of corporate behavior, when all communicators seek to achieve mutual benefits, is used. The parties agree to use a businesslike description of the problem, to be frank in discussing, to be friendly while criticizing , to seek understanding and compromise. Everybody take responsibility for resolving the conflict. This method allows to achieve the positive effect while resolving the disagreement.

Finally, we should mention the experiences of the use by the author of effective method which is the main tool for the development at the disposal of the manager – these are regular personal meetings. These meetings provide adequate perception of each individual and his development needs in the team.

The control should be performed in accordance with the policy of delegation of authority. When managers instruct people to work, they must supervise the development, help employees to overcome the problems and provide constructive feedback.

Moreover, the control should be implemented in the context of individual goals and support that the organization undertakes to provide. Goals are agreed during the annual assessment. Those people who control the whole process return to these objectives, monitor progress in achieving them, define the obstacles and agree on a new plan of actions. Thus, the control should seek the following:

  • to record achievements against goals;
  • to be sure that the assigned work is done in accordance with the standard and at the right time;
  • to check that people have the resources necessary to achieve their goals;
  • to give people the opportunity to improve skills and develop skills;
  • to provide a channel for two-way feedback on other business issues, (including the external issues, which may affect the performance).

The following three items of the control of social work provide the necessary framework for thinking about the control: an educational aspect, the role of support and management control.

The educational aspect of the control contributes to the development of skills of people, helping them to reflect on and understand what they have achieved and how to take advantage of such situations in the future.

The role of support is manifested in addressing the individual needs of people by those who exercise control. This is  especially important for people who work in difficult conditions.

The role of management control involves the clarification of objectives, a review of results and the quality control.

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